< 50 / 63 >
For Info Hide

Pinball  /

As children we’re almost always prepared to look behind the doors we’re told not to, we knowingly step outside the boundaries we’re given. We’re overcome by our burning curiosity to learn about the world we’re in and to possess the spaces that we inhabit. It’s far more than simple childish curiosity though it’s an active participation in our present, a way of possessing the past and a means of writing ourselves into our futures.

Perhaps that’s why most look back on their childhoods with fondness – a time when we’re still engaged with our surroundings with an eagerness that we lose as we age. As we grow older we’re pressured to stop creating our own interpretations of where we live, becoming swamped in the demands of the everyday - the need to make a living, the need to be on time, the need to fit-in. Quickly it becomes easier to default to the images and imaginings that are presented to us rather than seeking out our own. Essentially we lose the ability to explore.

But its remarkable what can be found in even familiar places by just staying interested. Every town holds numerous secrets within its public space, but behind the private doors of the people that live there there’s an infinite world of variety. While the abandoned hospital, the public sewers or the locked church tower may be conceivably accessible, it may seem impossible to get access to the personal secrets of a town’s citizens. Although sometimes all one needs do is ask.

In the attic of one house in Sittard-Geleen is hidden one of the greatest collections of pinball machines in the Netherlands. Made almost exclusively of games from the pinball manufacturer Williams’ the collection represents some of the greatest machines ever created, extending the worlds and experiences of some of the most popular films and stories through a medium that today seems anachronous but nonetheless still has the power to hypnotise.

Founded in 1943 the Williams Manufacturing Company began by making fortune teller machines for the funfair market. However, keen to diversify the owner Harry Williams re-tooled a series of existing pinball machines adding a series of additional game features, even inventing the pinball tilt feature in the process. By the 1960s Williams had become one of the leading players in the electromechanical gaming world releasing tables such as Beat Time, Smart Set and Space Mission that defined pinball’s golden age.

However, it was in combining traditional pinball with the emergent videogames market that the company found their greatest success and captured the life-long imagination of one Sittard-Geleen based collector. By using the flipper buttons as controllers for secondary games played off a screen to the traditional mechanical pinball table Williams created an entirely new format for gaming. Extending the universes of Indiana Jones, The Arabian Nights and the Adams Family saw Williams machines hold their own against their screen based rivals well into the 1990s.

These tables housed somewhere in the city now represent a moment in gaming history preserved through the passion of one collector in what is perhaps an unlikely place. But more than that they demonstrate the possibility of always being able to find something novel and interesting in a city, no matter how familiar one may feel with it, simply by remaining interested in exploring more of where one lives. Even if sometimes that means getting to know more about the people than just the built environment.

< Back to  Secret Cities

PinBall Secret Cities Sittard Geleen